Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer, #1)

Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer, #1)

Maggie Stiefvater



PROLOGUE

This is going to be a story about the Lynch brothers.

There were three of them, and if you didn’t like one, try another, because the Lynch brother others found too sour or too sweet might be just to your taste. The Lynch brothers, the orphans Lynch. All of them had been made by dreams, one way or another. They were handsome devils, down to the last one.

They looked after themselves. Their mother, Aurora, had died the way some dreams did, gruesomely, blamelessly, unexpectedly. Their father, Niall, had been killed or murdered, depending on how human you considered him. Were there other Lynches? It seemed unlikely. Lynches appeared to be very good at dying.

Dreams are not the safest thing to build a life on.

Because the Lynch brothers had been in danger for so much of their lives, they’d each developed methods of mitigating threats. Declan, the eldest, courted safety by being as dull as possible. He was very good at it. In all things—school, extracurriculars, dating—he invariably chose the dullest option. He had a real gift for it; some forms of boring suggest that the wearer, deep down inside, might actually be a person of whimsy and nuance, but Declan made certain to practice a form of boring that suggested that, deep down inside, there was an even more boring version of him. Declan was not invisible, because invisible had its own charm, its own mystery. He was simply dull. Technically he was a college student, a political intern, a twenty-one-year-old with his whole life ahead of him, but it was hard to remember that. It was hard to remember him at all.

Matthew, the youngest, floated in safety by being as kind as possible. He was sweet humored, pliable, and gentle. He liked things, and not in an ironic way. He laughed at puns. He swore like a greeting card. He looked kindly, too, growing from a cherubic, golden-haired child to an Adonic, golden-haired seventeen-year-old. All of this treacly, tousled goodness might have been insufferable had not Matthew also been an excruciatingly messy eater, a decidedly lazy student, and not very bright. Everyone wanted to hug Matthew Lynch, and he wanted to let them.

Ronan, the middle brother, defended his safety by being as frightening as possible. Like the other Lynch brothers, he was a regular churchgoer, but most people assumed he played for the other team. He dressed in funereal black and had a raven as a pet. He shaved his hair close to his skull and his back was inked with a clawed and toothed tattoo. He wore an acidic expression and said little. What words he did unsheathe turned out to be knives, glinting and edged and unpleasant to have stuck into you. He had blue eyes. People generally think blue eyes are pretty, but his were not. They were not cornflower, sky, baby, indigo, azure. His were iceberg, squall, hypothermia, eventual death. Everything about him suggested he might take your wallet or drop your baby. He was proud of the family name, and it suited him. His mouth was always shaped like he’d just finished saying it.

The Lynch brothers had many secrets.

Declan was a collector of beautiful, specific phrases that he would not let himself use in public, and the possessor of an illuminated, specific smile no one would ever see. Matthew had a forged birth certificate and no fingerprints. Sometimes, if he let his mind wander, he found himself walking in a perfectly straight line. Toward something? Away from something? This was a secret even to himself.

Ronan had the most dangerous of the secrets. Like many significant secrets, it was passed down through the family—in this case, from father to son. This was the good and bad of Ronan Lynch: The good was that sometimes, when he fell asleep and dreamt, he woke with that dream. The bad was that sometimes, when he fell asleep and dreamt, he woke with that dream. Monsters and machines, weather and wishes, fears and forests.

Dreams are not the safest thing to build a life on.

After their parents died, the Lynch brothers kept their heads down. Declan removed himself from the business of dreams and went to school for the dullest possible degree in political science. Ronan kept his nightmare games confined to the family farm in rural Virginia as best as he could. And Matthew—well, Matthew only had to keep on making sure he didn’t accidentally walk away.

Declan grew more boring and Ronan grew more bored. Matthew tried not to let his feet take him someplace he didn’t understand.

They all wanted more.

One of them had to break, eventually. Niall had been a wild Belfast dreamer with fire biting at his heels, and Aurora had been a golden dream with the borderless sky reflected in her eyes. Their sons were built for chaos.

It was a sharp October, a wild October, one of those fretful spans of time that climbs into your skin and flits around. It was two months after the fall semester had begun. The trees were all brittle and grasping. The drying leaves were skittish. Winter yowled round the doorways at night until wood fires drove it away for another few hours.

There was something else afoot that October, something else stretching and straining and panting, but it was mostly as of yet unseen. Later it would have a name, but for now, it simply agitated everything uncanny it touched, and the Lynch brothers were no exception.

Declan broke first.

While the youngest brother was in school and the middle brother malingered at the family farm, Declan opened a drawer in his bedroom and removed a piece of paper with a telephone number on it. His heart beat faster just to look at it. He should have destroyed it, but instead, he entered it into his phone.

“The Lynch boy?” said the voice on the other side of the line.

“Yes,” he said simply, “I want the key.” Then he hung up.

He told no one else about the call, not even his brothers. What was one more tiny secret, he thought, in a life full of them.

Boredom and secrets: an explosive combination.

Something was going to burn.





1

Creatures of all kinds had begun to fall asleep.

The cat was the most dramatic. It was a beautiful animal, if you liked cats, with a dainty face and long, cottony fur, the kind that seemed like it would melt away into liquid sugar. It was a calico, which under normal circumstances would mean it was certainly not an it, but rather a she. Calico had to be inherited from two X chromosomes. Perhaps that rule didn’t apply here, though, in this comely rural cottage nearly no one knew about. Forces other than science held domain in this place. The calico might not even be a cat at all. It was cat-shaped, but so were some birthday cakes.

It had watched them kill him.

Caomhán Browne had been his name. Was still his name, really. Like good boots, identities outlived those who wore them. They had been told he was dangerous, but he’d thrown everything but what they’d feared at them. A tiny end table. A plump and faded floral recliner. A stack of design magazines. A flat-screen television of modest size. He’d actually stabbed Ramsay with the crucifix from the hallway wall, which Ramsay found funny even during the act of it. Holy smokes, he’d said.

One of the women wore lambskin dress-for-success heeled boots, and there was now an unbelievable amount of blood on them. One of the men was prone to migraines, and he could feel the dreamy magic of the place sparking the lights of an aura at the edges of his vision.

In the end, Lock, Ramsay, Nikolenko, and Farooq-Lane had cornered both Browne and the cat in the low-ceilinged kitchen of the Irish holiday cottage, nothing within Browne’s reach but a decorative dried broom on the wall and the cat. The broom wasn’t good for anything, even sweeping, but the cat might have been used to good effect if thrown properly. Few have the constitution to throw a cat properly, however, and Browne was not one of them. One could see the moment he realized he didn’t have it in him and gave up.

“Please don’t kill the trees,” he said.

They shot him. A few times. Mistakes were expensive and bullets were cheap.

The calico was lucky it hadn’t gotten shot, too, crouched behind Browne as it was. Bullets go through things; that’s their job. Instead it merely got splattered with blood. It let out an uncanny howl full of rage. It bottle-brushed its tail and puffed its cotton coat. Then it hurled itself straight at them, because you can trust that the Venn diagram of cats and folks willing to throw cats is a circle.

There was a very brief moment where it seemed quite possible that one of them was about to be wearing a cat with every claw extended.

But then Browne gave a final shiver and went still.

The cat dropped.

A body hits the floor with a sound like no other; the multifaceted fhlomp of an unconscious bag of bones can’t be replicated in any other way. The calico made this sound and then was also still. Unlike Browne, however, its chest continued to rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall.

previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ..75 next